Visiting the Sahara, whether it be in Algeria or elsewhere, requires care- ful planning. While much of this involves practical preparation, it also entails catching a sense of the Sahara’s magic, and dreaming a little before you go.
Some aspects of travelling in the Algerian Sahara are covered elsewhere in this book. In addition to the destination chapters – Ghardaïa and the Grand Ergs, and Tamanrasset, Djanet and the Sahara – detailed cover- age of Saharan rock art can be found on p80, while descriptions of the Sahara’s geography and the wildlife you may see there form a central part of the Environment chapter.
When it comes to preparing for a Saharan expedition, a little inspiration can take you a long way. The following books will help you to catch the spirit of the Sahara and whet your appetite for what awaits you in Algeria: Wind, Sand and Stars (Antoine de Saint-Exupéry) The existentialist bible of Saharan travel, filled with all the wisdom and gravitas of the world’s largest desert.
The Sahara (The World’s Wild Places, Time-Life Books) An unlikely desert classic which combines a wealth of information with evocative text that captures the essence of Saharan travel.
Libyan Sands – Travels in a Dead World (RA Bagnold) A beautifully written 1920s explora- tion of the Egyptian and Libyan deserts that overflows with the joy of discovery, a sensation that is still possible today. The Gates of Africa: Death, Discovery and the Search for Timbuktu (Anthony Sattin) No book about the Saharan explorers of old so beautifully evokes the reasons why they (and perhaps we) felt so called by the desert.
WHAT TO BRING
Although we’ve provided some general advice on what to bring on your visit to Algeria (see the boxed text, p14), there are further things that are specifically necessary for Saharan travel that you should consider carry- ing in your backpack.
Clothes & Camping Equipment
If you’re visiting the Algerian Sahara as part of an organised tour, check what equipment the operator will be sending with you. A warm sleeping bag and tent are essential in colder weather, while blankets should also be provided. A portable stove is also a must, as are kitchen and eating utensils.
No tour operator can be held responsible, however, if you find yourself freezing on a cold desert night because you didn’t bring enough warm clothes. For all but summer months, we advise you to bring a jacket or coat which is effective at keeping out the wind and keeping you warm. Other warm clothes should also be considered, depending on the time of year. Thermal underwear, for example, takes up little space. Good, sturdy boots are another must for the uneven trails of the Tassili N’Ajjer in particular.
Sunscreen is necessary, as is some form of head protection to help guard against getting sunburn or, worse, heat exhaustion. You should definitely bring a hat, but many travellers don traditional Tuareg headgear – the taguelmoust or other cloth – which not only shields you from the sun, but also keeps out wind-borne sand. For advice on the complicated fun of tying your new Tuareg taguelmoust in nine easy steps, see the boxed text, opposite. Moisturising cream for dry skin is also recommended.
A medical kit is a near-essential item, while you should also make sure that your travel insurance covers you for trekking, camel trekking and 4WD expeditions in the Algerian Sahara. Some form of mosquito repellent is also recommended – that unmistakeable high- pitched whine in the ear is death to sleep in many Saharan oases.
Useful items to have around the camp site at night include a Swiss army knife, a torch (some people prefer a head lantern) and spare batteries. Some travellers like to also carry a short-wave radio with them, although most prefer the silence of desert nights to knowing what’s happening in the world beyond the desert. A small telescope for studying the night sky is something of an indulgence, but one that you’ll appreciate if you have room in your backpack or vehicle.